Erdogan to Visit Serbia in September; gas pipeline, trade and security on the agenda

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is likely to visit Serbia in September 2017, with expectations that he will be discussing gas pipeline and infrastructure projects as well as issues that could be more difficult for Belgrade, sources said.

Serbia’s state-owned Vecernje novosti newspaper reported on Tuesday that Erdogan will travel to Serbia in September on an official visit, with regional political, energy and economic topics on the agenda.

Sources also said that more sensitive issues like schools connected to alleged Turkish coup plot mastermind Fethullah Gulen will be discussed.

The Turkish President will reportedly arrive in Belgrade at the end of September, with some 150 Turkish businesspeople coming along.

On July 14, the Turkish ambassador to Belgrade Tanzu Bilgic said that he is hoping that Serbia will close all institutions allegedly connected with Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by the Turkish authorities of being the mastermind of the futile coup in 2016.

“The Fetullah Movement has several schools in Serbia, but also several NGOs, and we discussed this with the Serbian authorities,” Bilgic said, adding “They are a very perverse organization, you are never sure what they can do, and they are infiltrating state institutions.”

Bilgic anticipated that the Serbian government will conform to Ankara’s wishes and close the institutions.

Erdogan is expected to discuss the establishment of a pipe gas from Russia to Turkey and then on to Europe, after Russia announced the cancellation of its South Stream natural gas pipeline, which was to run through Serbia.

Moreover, Sandzak; a southern region of Serbia on the border with Montenegro, where the Bosniaks form the majority of the population - could be one of the topics discussed during Erdogan’s visit.

Erdogan has showed interest in the region before when he visited the town of Novi Pazar in Sandzak in 2010 and opened a Turkish Cultural Centre there. It was remarkable that after the coup attempt in Turkey, Sandzak residents gathered in numbers in Novi Pazar in August 2016 to support Erdogan and watch a live broadcast of his rally in Istanbul.

As Vecernje novosti reported on Tuesday, Erdogan's visit could also conclude concrete business agreements, as he will arrive with 150 Turkish businesspeople. The newspaper suggested that the textile industry and the privatization of Serbian spas are areas in which investors from Turkey are particularly interested.